“Cabaret Crusades” | MoMA PS1 | 2015
For this featured FSA Inspiration, we highlight Egyptian multimedia artist Wael Shawky (b. 1971) and his trilogy of films, entitled Cabaret Crusades (2010; 2012; 2015). Exhibited at MoMA PS1 in 2015, artist, writer, and educator Yasi Alipour critically reviews the films in her essay for The Brooklyn Rail, providing insight into Shawky’s influences behind the trilogy:
“Set in a surreal and seductive world inhabited by marionettes, the three-hour plus long video trilogy explores the history of the Crusades from the Arab perspective.
“Set in a surreal and seductive world inhabited by marionettes, the three-hour plus long video trilogy explores the history of the Crusades from the Arab perspective. Shawky skillfully juxtaposes historical narrative with the childish world of puppetry—seriousness with naivety, fear with humor, horror with entertainment—to focus on events crucial to the development of an Arab identity […] Shawky’s conceptual inspiration for the project was the Lebanese historian Amin Maalouf’s book, Crusades through Arab Eyes (1983), a collection of Medieval Arab writers’ observations. Focusing on this less prevalent version of history, the artist moves beyond representation to study the influence of history as a social construct with horrific consequences. In his words, Shawky makes a critical attempt ‘to translate this experience as a society that lives on their ancestor’s history.’” Continues Alipour: “The three videos, The Horror Show Files (2010), The Path to Cairo (2012), and The Secret of Karbala (2015), cover more than 200 years of history in many cities and include hundreds of characters, played by handcrafted marionettes.”
Please read Yasi Alipour’s full article and view other video interviews with the artist regarding this seminal work in the links below.
Film Clip and Images from “Cabaret Crusades”